I’ve played a fair amount of space-themed games by now and almost all of them provide a poor idea of the scale of space. Most games that feature space travel let you hop quickly from one world to another in a matter of seconds with a visual presentation that gives the impression that the two worlds must be closely lying together. The first few games involving space travel did this mistake although they are being excused due to the technical restrictions of early hardware. But still recent games like for example the acclaimed Mass Effect gives a laughable and misleading vision about the vastness of space. This always bothered me because the amazing, mind-blowing feel for how gigantic space actually is gets lost completely. The only game I know of which does this quite well is EVE Online. In EVE Online, to travel from one spot in the playable space to another takes quite a couple of turns and twists. Its still easy enough by simply choosing your destination on the map and then the Autopilot will take you there while it still feels like a long journey from one place to the other. And approaching a planet is visually nothing short of awesome.
In Trailed Alliance I want to portray space differently than how most other games of the theme did it. The space should appear to be of much greater scale so that the player gets an idea about just how big space is. On the other hand space travel in TA shouldn’t be a chore so a decent enough navigation system will be required. The game is supposed to feature a space map navigation system that provides a far more immersive vision toward intergalactic travel and the vast distances that lie between worlds. Traveling between two worlds that are far apart – say, for example two worlds in two different star systems that lie far apart – isn’t a matter of mouse-clicking on the destination and arrive there after five seconds, it’s a matter of making sure that you have enough fuel, your astrogation charts are up-to-date, you have a capable pilot, and you can wait a minute or two because the game will actually force a time delay on your travel to make the distance appear more realistic and traveling in space more challenging and therefore more considerable. Of course during such travel times you don’t want to be forced to stare at your screen, being unable to do anything. The solution to that is that instead you are able to walk and interact around your ship during such a flight, being able to talk with other party members and do various other things aboard your vessel. When arriving at your destination (or in case your flight was interrupted by pirates or other evildoers) you are notified and can continue what you were doing, free to dock or land whenever ready.
Another difference to many other space RPGs is that you can not only travel to strictly set destinations but to just about any coordinate in space. This gives space travel in Trailed Alliance yet another level of challenge because you have to be careful to where you hyper jump or you could end up being stranded somewhere in the vastness of space. And while getting stranded doesn’t mean the end of the game it’s not a pleasant experience either. Here again finding a good pilot (or learn the Pilot class yourself) is key to successful space travel.
There’s a lot of potential in space-based gameplay but none of the few more recent Sci-Fi RPGs like SWKotoR or Mass Effect make any use of it. For me space travel feels very static in these games, just being able to select the destination and being brought automatically there with a short space jump FMV. No risk of being intercepted by pirates or authorities, no risk of being thrown out of hyperspace because a space region has recently changed due to an asteroid field, no risk that the hyperdrive breaks down, etc., in other words: boring! Trailed Alliance will feature turn-based combat not only on the ground but also in subspace being fought between spaceships. We had something similar in older games of the genre like Starflight and Hard Nova but it was still rather primitive, again, restricted by technical limitations. There is also the chance of traveling around in space without any definitive destination and hitting something unexpected like an undiscovered planet where yet another adventure awaits. Or the PCs are thrown out of hyperspace because they were nearing too close to a back hole (yet another case for having a good pilot or navigator).
There will be a whole lot going on and possible in the vast Trailed Alliance space. At least I want to make sure there’s a lot more than what similar games offered so far.